IQ News: Addicted To Cool




The moment David Hyman eyed online music ‘zine Addicted to Noise in 1995, he was hooked. “ATN was the coolest thing I’d ever seen,” says Hyman, newly appointed senior vice president in charge of ad sales for online music network SonicNet, which houses ATN. Hyman, 31, joined ATN in 1996 as “the first paid employee there.” The job was not without its initial pitfalls. “It was really scary,” recalls Hyman. “I said to Michael [Goldberg, editor and founder of ATN], you’ve got to get a media kit together and he said, ‘What’s that?’ We’ve come a long way since.”
So has he. “Before there even was an Internet” Hyman, a native New Yorker, spent six years in Europe importing high-end audio equipment for an American company. When the University of Vermont graduate returned stateside in 1994, he took a position at HotWired, where he was “one of the first people to put up banner ads.”
While Addicted to Noise began as a labor of love by Goldberg, a veteran music journalist and former editor at Rolling Stone, the site–which merged with SonicNet in 1997–quickly proved it could go head-to-head with big-boy competitors like MTV.com and Rolling Stone Online. Earlier this year, SonicNet was acquired by TCI Music (a division of the cable giant), which owns video on demand cable channel The Box and DMX, a digital music library service that provides commercial-free, CD-quality audio through cable lines.
He has inked deals with high-profile partners like Levi’s–which sponsors SonicNet’s high-bandwidth Streamland.com, a video on demand site–and Intel, an exclusive partner on the streaming audio and video site FlashRadio.com, which features “cool visual eye candy.” Alongside this, Hyman has continued to use “beyond the banner” advertising such as interstitial flash ads, while still catering to a specific target audience, namely 18 to 24-year-old music lovers. “Unlike Spin Online or Imagine Radio, we don’t try to be all things to all people,” says Hyman. “We’re not a lifestyle site. We’re focused on the music.” As of last week even more music fans could access SonicNet when it became one of the music anchor tenants on America Online.
Now that it’s a holding of TCI, Hyman doesn’t believe the ‘little site that could’ will lose its grassroots appeal. “When you go to SonicNet, there’s a specific look and feel, as opposed to just a bunch of different areas that are not cohesive. There’s definitely still a cool attitude on the site.”
Does size really matter? “I know, and a lot of people know, that the future of the Web is not simply about the CNETs and the Pathfinders of the world. The future is about when the masses go online, they’re able to find the entertainment they want, pure and simple, regardless of size,” he says. “We’ve always felt like the Davey vs. Goliath.” And, that’s pretty cool.